A Food Tour of Paris You Won't Want to Miss
It’s no secret that Paris is the culinary capital of Europe. Looking to learn from the best? Allow us to guide you through the city, tastebuds first.
All things considered, it’s unsurprising that the notion of the restaurant as we know it today was dreamt up in Paris. Since the first popped up on the city’s cobblestone streets 250 years ago, the French capital has become the world leader in all things culinary. Food and France are utterly interlinked (much like Plum Guide and remarkable homes, if you will), and a trip to Paris can consist entirely of trips from cafe to market to restaurant, with a few wine bar pit stops along the way. In fact, you can learn more from a short weekend getaway (with a roomy pair of trousers) than you could from any French cookbook.
For a highly educational city break, we recommend procuring some sort of gilded notebook from one of Paris’ many bookshops (plus a copy of A Moveable Feast, while you’re at it), and allowing the city’s greatest sommeliers, chefs and oyster shuckers to be your professeurs de cuisine.
Read on for our guide to the crème de la crème of Parisian neighbourhoods, plus the best food tours and classic French dishes you simply can’t miss.
Soupe à l'oignon
You’ll find this classic apéritif on the menu at all respectable French restaurants. A rich, comforting soup of dark meat stock and caramelised onions, topped - with any luck - with a Gruyère-drenched crouton the size of a beret.
Not to be confused with the coconut macaroon (or the French President), this utterly Parisian pastry is a little puck of meringue, icing sugar and almond meal in a kaleidoscope of colours and flavours. It’s rather incredible how much you can spend on a single bite of sweetness, but we recommend going full whack and picking up a ribbon-topped box from the very best. Our personal choice? Ladurée, for the Marie Antoinette macaron. Almost too pretty to eat (but not quite).
The general rule is to eat oysters only during months that include the letter ‘R’. Which is a lot of them, luckily. Parisians tend to shuck and slurp the most from October onwards, when they start to get particularly plump and juicy. The oysters, that is.
Frencher than a Breton shirt in a bicycle basket, there’s nothing that quite matches the pleasure of a clattering bowl of moules mariniére (accompanied by a tower of pommes frites, of course). The best are spanking fresh, meaty and massive, drowning in a parsley-flecked bath of garlic, shallots and white wine.
Confit de Canard
It’s almost impossible to get your hands on this dish outside of France. So it’s vitally important you eat as much of it as possible while you’re here. Widely considered one of the finest examples of classic French cookery, it involves cooking and preserving the entire duck in its own fat. It’s typically served with pommes de terre à la Sarladaise - potatoes cooked in duck fat. See our neighbourhood guide below for upping your step count the following day.
This fine dessert was dreamt up in the 1880s in the kitchen of Hôtel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron, south of Paris. You could certainly make the pilgrimage to this legendary spot to taste the original recipe, but there’s plenty of places to sample a slice (or twelve) in the city itself. Crisp, buttery pastry, sticky apples and sweet caramel, usually served with a dollop of crème fraîche - because the French know pleasure when they see it.
Mousse au Chocolat
There’s chocolate mousse, then there’s mousse au chocolat. Whipped up with more love than a couturier at Paris Fashion Week, the perfect one should use the finest chocolate, whipped with egg - nothing more, nothing less. It should be fairly small, too. Which you’ll be grateful for later on, we assure you.
Slanted, oyster shell-coloured houses, manicured parks guarded by wrought iron gates, irresistible boutiques and more than a few architectural masterpieces, Le Marais is, in many ways, the most Parisian of neighbourhoods. Pull up a bistro chair at one of its many cafes to sip un petit café and watch the fashion set stroll by. After that, spend the morning getting lost in a historic maze of streets, slipping into the odd chocolatier along the way. This was once the city’s Jewish quarter, and is still bursting with kosher bakeries. A local favourite is the frescoed Boulangerie Murciano, where the apple strudel is prepared with an ungodly amount of sugar - and is all the better for it. Later on, settle in at the wine-soaked literary cafe La Belle Hortense. Because all Parisians know that books are better with a side of Bordeaux.
Bohemians and literary legends have been flocking to this left bank neighbourhood for centuries. In many ways, this is the centre of Paris’ iconic cafe culture (a rite of passage for any visitor). The best way to truly drink it all in is to flit from cafe to cafe, copy of Le Parisian in-hand (whether you can read French or not is beside the point). Spots like Cafe Les Deux Magots and Cafe de Flore have inspired some of the world’s most beloved books, so we recommend beginning there. If it’s good enough for Wagner, Picasso and Hemmingway…
A little gritty on the surface compared to its elegant neighbours, Belleville is fast becoming one of Paris’ most desired addresses. Here, it’s more bustling dim sum joints than Parisian baguettes, more mouthy street art than Monet water lilies. Climb the steps of Parc de Belleville for sweeping views of Paris, and stop for a bite at hilltop restaurant La Mer a Boire. After a coffee and something sweet at one of the area’s plentiful cafes (La Fontaine de Belleville is our personal favourite), head to cemetery-to-the-stars Père Lachaise to give Oscar Wilde a quick kiss.
No trip to Paris is complete without a wander round the historic streets of Montmartre and nearby Pigalle (where you can feast your eyes on the Moulin Rouge - and avert them from a few other things…). Perched high in the hills, with the air of a little French village, Montmatre played muse to artists like Picasso, Van Gogh and Matisse around the turn of the century. Once you’ve ticked off the Sacré-Cœur, you can while away a good few hours sampling classic French cooking at Au Bon Coin. Louise Michel Square is also a rather lovely place to take a little Parisian picnic and lap up the views - along with some more lovely French wine, of course
Best Food Tours
Hip Eats and Backstreet Food Tour
Brought to you by Eating Europe, this joyous tour allows you to taste the very best of Paris’ street food, avoiding the selfie-stick-filled throngs of tourists along the way. This four-hour walking tour (all the better for eating, we say) takes you through four chicer-than-Bardot neighbourhoods. You’ll be fuelled by lemon tarts, croque monsieurs, local cheeses and enough Bordeaux to keep thirst very much at bay.
Tastings in Saint Germain des Prés
Call upon the expertise of a local to lead this tour of Saint Germain des Prés’ sweetest treats. Meet at the famous Cafe de Flore to stroll through this iconic Left Bank neighbourhood, sampling silky macarons, secret-recipe bakes, cream puffs and the wares of a particularly decadent chocolatier. Paris est une fête, indeed.
See Behind the Boulangerie
Ever wondered how Parisians get their pastry so flaky, their cream so light and their baguettes so streamline? Go behind the scenes at Le Grenier à Pain to learn a thing or two about perfect bread, classic baking techniques and just how much butter really goes into a croissant.
Ok, so it’s not a formal tour as such. But no trip to Paris is complete without the perfect cheese tasting. Astier is one of the godfathers of the French bistro, and simply having a meal here is something of a cultural experience. The main menu is fantastic, but we recommend ordering a bottle of wine and cutting straight to the cheese course. Their famous, decadent platter gets passed from table to table, and you can have as much as your heart desires. Which is a blessing and a curse, depending on your levels of self-control.
If you're looking forward to your next trip to Paris to enjoy its world-class cuisine, have a browse at our world-class Parisian homes.